There are holiday parties, and then there are for-the-record-books, refined yet raucous, Playboy-level holiday parties. To make it an unforgettable night at your mansion, follow our 11 rules, including expert advice from jet-setting DJ Steve Aoki, world-renowned mixologist Jim Meehan, iconic party photographer Mark Hunter, soul singer John Legend and Top Chef Master Chris Cosentino.

**’Tis the season to use snail mail** With in-boxes jammed with unanswered holiday e-mail invitations, sending out letterpress invites printed on heavy card stock will greatly improve your RSVP ratio. The handsome invitation above was designed and printed by Dauphine Press, which can work with you to create your own custom design.
**Bright lights are a buzzkill. for god’s sake, turn them down**
1. Dim the lights Take a cue from every romantic restaurant you’ve visited and turn down the lights. Especially in the kitchen (it’s where everyone ends up anyway).
2. Strand and deliver Twinkle lights aren’t just for the tree. Hang them in every room. Buy white ones: You can deploy them at other parties throughout the year.
3. Votive early, votive often Grab a pack of tea lights at Ikea (they’re scent-free and only four bucks for 100) and place them throughout the house for dramatic effect.
**Put the singer’s favorite holiday songs on your playlist** **MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY** by Elvis Presley **THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY** by Stevie Wonder **BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE** by Betty Carter and Ray Charles **LET IT SNOW!** by Frank Sinatra **CHRISTMAS NIGHT IN HARLEM** by Louis Armstrong **CHRISTMAS IN HARLEM** by Kanye West, CyHi da Prynce and Teyana Taylor
**John Legend** The nine-time Grammy Award winner is putting the finishing touches on his next album, Love in the Future.
**Serve a glorious festive punch from Jim Meehan, mixologist extraordinaire**
ROSY CHEEKS Created specially for Playboy, this punch is prepared with a number of ingredients worth talking about. Redbreast (comment away) is one of the finest Irish whiskeys. Plymouth sloe gin was traditionally sipped from flasks by English fox hunters. And the new Tempus Fugit crème de cacao is absolutely amazing. Everyone loves champagne, or should, and it can be served on its own for those who prefer a glass of wine: Be sure to stock extra bottles. The drink’s name refers to the glow one attains after sipping a few of these, as well as to the flush that follows an arduous trek to a holiday party.SERVES 12 9 oz. Redbreast 12-year-old Irish whiskey 6 oz. Plymouth sloe gin 6 oz. Tempus Fugit crème de cacao 6 oz. fresh lemon juice 1 bottle Moët Imperial champagne 12 lemon slices, for garnish Combine first four ingredients and refrigerate. Right before the party, pour into a chilled punch bowl containing cubed ice or a large block of ice* and top with champagne. Serve in five-ounce punch cups garnished with lemon slices. *If you prepare the punch over a large block of ice, add 12 ounces of ice-cold water. No need to add if you use cubed ice instead.
Meehan is owner of PDT, New York’s preeminent speakeasy and winner of the 2011 Best Bar in the World award, and author of The PDT Cocktail Book.
**The ultimate self-serve bar** For the less adventurous—which occasionally includes VIP attendees such as your boss or in-laws—a well-chosen highball bar is the low-maintenance way to please all tastes. It gives your guests the opportunity to show their true colors when they mix their own drinks and compliment you on your choice of spirits. Set up a combination of the categories below, with a bowl of lemon and lime wedges.**
** WHISKEY VODKA GIN TEQUILA Johnnie Walker Black Label The Famous Grouse Compass Box Absolut Belvedere Ketel One Tanqueray Plymouth Hendrick’s Siete Leguas El Tesoro Jose Cuervo Tradicional
GINGER ALE MINERAL WATER TONIC WATER GRAPE-FRUIT SODA Q Ginger Fever-Tree Blenheim Perrier Lurisia San Pellegrino Q Tonic Fever-Tree Schweppes Mexican Squirt Ting Izze
**Uncork a limited edition seasonal beer** Every year, San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing creates a top-secret custom-blended Christmas ale with intense, spicy flavors and a higher alcohol content than standard ales. Track down a magnum for an impressive and celebratory presentation.

You’ve gone to the trouble of dialing in all the details, so keep up the high standards on the sartorial front. A simple dark suit and tie, or a natty blazer and a crisp shirt, will show your best side—and show your guests the respect they deserve.

Mark Hunter’s tips for taking unforgettable party photos

“Your pictures will only be as good as what you’re taking a picture of. Parties are not the time to get ambitious with composition to show everyone you’re a fancy-pants artist. Nobody cares about your composition. Just find the coolest-, hottest-, weirdest-looking people you can, stand a couple of feet in front of them, and take a picture.”

*“The key word in ‘party photographer’ is ‘party.’ * You’ll never get good photos if you look boring and ugly. If you dress wild enough, you will create a party just by walking into the room, and you can then take pictures of that party.”

*“Get a real camera. At good parties, things happen fast. * Your camera phone may be able to take pretty good pictures, but it won’t be fast enough to capture the really hot action while it’s happening. If you want a picture of the big fat drunk guy jiggling through the air before he lands in the pool, you’re going to need a big camera with a real lens.”

“Nothing is worse than a picture of a really pretty girl with a really fake smile. I always try to sneak up on girls so they don’t have time to decide what kind of face to make, or I try to make them laugh so they’re really smiling. There are other reasons to make pretty girls laugh at parties, but if you don’t know about that, you’re reading the wrong magazine.”

Mark Hunter Hunter, a.k.a. the Cobrasnake, shoots the hottest parties in the country. Check out his pics at

This holiday, go south, young man
Of all possible holiday hams, none can top the artisanal, exactingly smoked Southern country-style hams that have become beloved by American chefs. If you’ve never had a country ham from the Deep South before, think of it as America’s bold, smoky answer to prosciutto. Chris Cosentino, winner of Top Chef Masters and the chef behind Incanto in San Francisco and Pigg in Los Angeles, says, “Country ham sliced and served like a classic prosciutto is the way to go. I like to serve it with ripe pears and toasted hazelnuts. Or a simple citrus marmalade and a great biscuit would be perfect.” Benton’s, Broadbent’s, Colonel Bill Newsom’s, Father’s and S. Wallace Edwards and Sons are among the best producers.

DJ-quality albums for your afterparty

DAFT PUNK, ALIVE 2007 “It’s the most amazing mixed album in dance music by the most influential dance artists in the world.”

QUEEN, GREATEST HITS “They have so many hits. Who doesn’t want to clink drinks and sing along to one of the greatest rock bands ever?”

JUSTICE, CROSS “This album defined electro and still pumps me up. If I want to get excited about going out and hanging with friends, this album has never failed me in the past four years.”

THE BLOODY BEETROOTS, ROMBORAMA “Twenty songs of electro fire. Uplifting records, songs that will make you want to scream, songs that will make you want to start a mosh pit with your parents, songs that will get you dancing off your feet. One of the best albums in dance music, period.”

STEVE AOKI, WONDERLAND “I worked day and night for three years to finish my album Wonderland. I went across the board to many different genres, working with artists such as LMFAO, Kid Cudi, Lil Jon, Rivers Cuomo, CSS, Travis Barker, Chiddy Bang, Wynter Gordon, and others to create all different kinds of moods to get you in the mood to have the best party ever. Make your night a Wonderland night!”

Steve Aoki is a world-class DJ, music producer and founder of Dim Mak Records.

Better recovery through chemistry Of course, moderation is the best medicine. If you over-imbibe, the hair of the dog will only put off inevitable pain and suffering. Blowfish is a megadose of caffeine and aspirin (which usually works for us) in a convenient form.